Transportation interruptions


Following a winter storm, an earthquake, or other events affecting transport systems, the media often report the severe impacts on travelers. The quantification of these impacts in both physical terms (in what way is traffic interrupted?) and in monetary terms (what is the social cost of the interruptions?) is, however, hardly ever done nor published, but often called for immediately after an event. The Chair of Network Economics, part of the Institute of Economics (ECON) at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is investigating the impacts of events causing a disruption of the transportation system.

Aims / Objective

The overall goal is to substantiate and extend common methodologies of indirect loss assessment towards rapid loss estimation. Therefore this project contributes to a better understanding of economic losses of events harming transport systems.
This project specifically aims to:

  • identify the data requirements and find innovate estimation methods in case of low data availability
  • classify the impacts of a disrupting event
  • determine the parties concerned
  • analyze possible methods of quantification and monetization of the impacts
  • assess the indirect costs associated with a disrupting event

Project status

So far, two historic events were studied: the winter storm Daisy in Germany and the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Both events happened in 2010, and we focused on the effects on transport in Germany. We started by collecting all types of effects caused by the events and categorizing them in order to obtain an overview of the various dimensions of the impacts. Press releases or other resources on the internet were used to gather the necessary information. The categorized impacts were thereafter assessed in respect of the possibilities to monetize them. The comparison of our figures with other published figures showed that is it crucial to define the category of losses captured in the analysis since otherwise it is hardly possible to interpret the numbers presented.


The most time consuming activity in the loss assessment has been the search for data. In this respect, co-operations with the CEDIM projects related to crowd sourcing and to the modeling of the natural events may contribute to a faster assessment. While the modeling of the natural events may help to determine the extension of an event (e.g. which geographic areas are affected by extraordinarily high snow levels and for how long), crowd sourcing may assist in assessing the effects of an event on the transportation system and its users (e.g. number of cancellations of flights).

The two case studies showed that depending on the type of event different types of impacts can be expected. In future research, more information will have to be collected, from current or historical events, in order to verify and improve the procedures towards a more reliable rapid loss assessment.